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Israel approves more than 1,100 new West Bank settlement homes: NGO

Israeli education minister Naftali Bennett had called for further settlement construction as 'revenge' after killing of Jewish settler
The Jabal al-Baba Bedouin encampment, near the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim in the occupied West Bank on the outskirts of Jerusalem (AFP)

Israeli authorities have approved more than 1,100 new settlement homes in the occupied West Bank, the Peace Now NGO said on Thursday, the latest in a raft of such moves in recent months.

The approvals were given on Wednesday by a defence ministry committee with authority over settlement construction. Some 352 of the homes received final approval, while the others are at an earlier stage in the process, Hagit Ofran of Peace Now told the AFP news agency.

The move comes shortly after the killing of a settler late on Tuesday while driving near a so-called wildcat settlement where he lived near the northern city of Nablus.

Wildcat settlements are outposts built on privately owned Palestinian land without permission from Israeli authorities.

Raziel Shevah, a 35-year-old rabbi, was killed in a drive-by shooting blamed on Palestinian militants.

He was laid to rest at the Havat Gilad settlement on Wednesday - the first person to be buried there at the wish of his family.

Hundreds of people attended the funeral, which included cries for "revenge" from youths in the crowd during a speech by Education Minister Naftali Bennett from the far-right Jewish Home party.

Bennett responded by saying the only revenge should be in building more settlements in the West Bank.

All Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are considered illegal under international law and major obstacles to peace as they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.

Israel, however, differentiates between settlements it has approved and those it has not.

Those built without approval are typically populated by hardline religious nationalists who see the entire West Bank as part of Israel.

Past attempts by Israeli authorities to evacuate Havat Gilad have led to clashes with settlers there. Some 50 families currently live in the outpost.

Israel's parliament last year passed legislation to recognise thousands of existing settlements in Israeli law, while a Greater Jerusalem Bill could result in the further annexation of Palestinian land.

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Around 400,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank among some 2.6 million Palestinians.

Sporadic unrest has occurred since US President Donald Trump provoked Palestinian anger by recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital on 6 December.

Fourteen Palestinians have been killed since then, with most of them shot dead in clashes with Israeli forces. Shevah is the first Israeli killed since then.

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